The world of industrial firefighting is complex and there’s always a need for information. But given that it’s a niche segment of the firefighting world, it's tough to find professional sources of information targeted at its specific needs.
The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is an often-over-looked source of targeted information for industrial firefighters. Though the association aims to define, develop and advance the use of engineering best practices, it is also a resource to educate the global fire safety community to reduce fire risk.
“We recognize industrial facilities present unique circumstances,” says Nicole Boston, CAE, who has served as CEO of SFPE since 2013. “We provide experts and research specifically targeted to industrial fires.”
SFPE Origins and Goals
Founders established SFPE in 1950 under the umbrella of the National Fire Protection Association. In 1971, SFPE separated into an independent organization. Today, the society has nearly 5,000 members globally and over 110 regional chapters.
“Roughly 25% of our membership is outside the U.S.,” Boston says. “Most of our chapters in the U.S. are city based. Internationally, our chapters are country based. For example, we have a U.K. chapter and a French chapter. We also partner with a lot of universities and colleges to attract more students to fire protection engineering.”
The purpose of the society, she says, is to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering and its allied fields to maintain a high ethical standard among its members and to foster fire protection engineering education.
To that end, SFPE helped to develop the licensing exam for fire protection engineering, which is offered every October and graded under the auspices of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
“There are so many places in the world where there are no programs, schools or licensing structures to ensure the qualifications and competencies of the people doing the work,” she says. “A lot of our work of late centers on developing core education curriculum for fire protection engineering. We are currently working on certificate and credentialling programs. These developments are more for our international audience; the U.S. audience can go through the licensure path, but qualifications, competency and ethical engineering are important aspects of the work we do.”
SFPE activities include educational seminars, short courses, technical symposia, conferences, books and publications designed to advance fire protection engineering and provide technical information to the fire protection community.
The society publishes a monthly newsletter, FPE eXTRA; a peer reviewed quarterly journal; and a quarterly technical magazine, Fire Protection Engineering.
“We are an ANSI-accredited body, so we publish standards and engineering guidelines. We usually produce two to three a year. In October we will complete one on very tall buildings, which updates a guide we did a few years ago. We will follow that in the fourth quarter with a guide on fire risk assessments.”
Webinars and other learning are also an SPFE specialty that Boston says has grown in the past 18 months. “We have been doing a lot of virtual learning and webinars since the pandemic, which have been very successful,” she says. “As a global organization, they have allowed us to reach more individuals.”
Some topics covered in the past year via webinar include:
- Modern Storage Considerations
- Human Behavior in Fire: Theory, Tools, and Practice
- Protecting the Process—Understanding Fire Protection Issues in the Cannabis Industry
- Protecting Facades
- Remote Inspections
- Lithium-Ion Batteries: What FPE’s Should Know
- Ammonium Nitrate Explosions and Impact on Fire Safety
- Life Safety: An Integrated Approach to Fire and Security
- Evacuation Strategies in an Office Building: How a PBD Approach Guarantees an Acceptable Safety Level
- Different Exit Signages Impact on Evacuees Choices
- Protecting Cultural Properties, It’s Essential for Our Heritage
- Robot Rebellion: Key Fire Safety Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Parking
- Promoting Growth While Regulating High-Density Development
- Imaging Through Fire Using Narrow Spectrum Illumination
- A Framework for Fire Safety in Informal Settlements
- Solving for “Why”—Grenfell Tower 3 Years On…
- COVID-19 & FSE: Impact on Fire Safety and Lessons Learning for Future Pandemics
- Temporary Fire Protection Pump Systems
SFPE records all webinars to give global members access on demand. Fire protection professionals can access recorded webinars at: https://www.pathlms.com/sfpe/courses
“The news of the day and whatever is most pressing dictates the topics we cover,” she says. “We cover anything from energy storage systems using lithium-ion batteries to dust explosion, risk assessments, performance-based design, and wildfires.”
The organization also offers courses on a variety of topics, including things like risk assessment, introduction to industrial fire engineering, hydraulic calculations for sprinkler systems, protecting flammable and combustible liquids, smoke control and more. For a full list of courses visit: https://www.sfpe.org/events-education/courses/coursecatalog
SFPE hosts an annual conference open to everyone practicing in fire protection and fire safety engineering. This year, the SFPE21 Annual Conference & Expo is slated for October 17-19, with post-conference seminars from October 20-22, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Guests do not need to be SFPE members to attend, but members get a break on the conference rate. Member registration is $999, non-member registration is $1,299, and student registration is $300 through August 30th. Prices rise to $1,199 for members, $1,499 for non-members and $400 for students after that date.
Membership dues are $215 annually. Membership is open to engineers as well as others who are interested or working with fire protection. Interested parties can join SFPE before the conference at: https://www.sfpe.org/membership-communities/become-a-member/member-types
Registration includes access to all technical sessions, three receptions, complimentary breakfast and lunch during the conference and access to the Expo Hall at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.
SFPE will release a full schedule of events later this month. Post event seminars include the following topics: Understanding Human Behavior, Applications in Fire Risk Assessment, and Principles in Fire Protection Engineering.
Event sponsors taking part in the conference include Armstrong, Hydratec, Hyperspike, the International Code Council, Kennedy Valve, Siemens, Micropack Fire & Gas, Thunderhead Engineering, Victaulic, Viking, Potter, Sabalcore, UL, and NKT Photonics.
“Our goal is to create more awareness of SFPE and provide education on the issues and challenges in fire protection,” she says.
Learn more about the conference and register to attend at: https://www.sfpe.org/annual21/register